Monday, September 6, 2010

Lets Stop Kidding Ourselves

Before I get into the meat of my impromptu and latest political rant let me clearly state that I have the highest respect for Joe Scarborough, a former congressman and co-host of the show “Morning Joe” seen on MSNBC weekday mornings. He and his co-host, Mika Brzezinski, run a tight ship with the curious feature of intelligent and lively discussion on current events and issues that the country faces. Given that they face the three morning stooges on Fox Noise, the Imus zombie and his assorted weasels on Fox Business and the drab but well meaning crew on CNN their show is first rate even when you take their competition into account.

I will go even farther and say that I respect Joe Scarborough, a small government conservative, enough to seriously consider voting for him if he should ever run for national office. His positions are almost always intelligent and reasonable, when compared to the reactionary and mindless ideological driven syncopates that run the Republican Party. With Joe’s apparent demeanor and history in Congress I believe he would do his best to represent not just a domineering conservative viewpoint but try and fashion some consensus between the various ends of the American political spectrum. However, I caught the tail end of something mentioned on his show a few days ago that highly pissed me off.

The discussion that morning had turned to the wars being fought in our names and how it is only the men and women of the armed services that are actually fighting while the vast majority of the country continues with their daily lives as if Afghanistan and Iraq are a pair of bad reality shows. Someone must have mentioned bringing back the draft, probably Mike Barnacle, but Joe quickly shot that down with the tried and true answer that I know comforts many suburban middle class parents scared that their precious offspring might someday be forced to go in harm’s way.

Joe said something to the effect that if you ask the generals they do not want an army filled with disgruntled draftees. Now the kicker here is that he is absolutely right, the generals like the all volunteer service and its abilities as compared to the nearly broken force that came out of the 1970’s. The armed forces we had before our involvements in Afghanistan and Iraq were highly trained professionals with the best training and equipment that could have quickly kicked any opponent’s ass then helped rebuild their country. These same service men and women are still the best and now have gazillions of hours of combat experience but they have been overstretched and abused to the point that their effectiveness for any future combat can be questioned. The average American would have to be purposely blind and deaf to the stories of stressed out and broken military families, suicides, along with thousands of injuries both physical and mental our warriors now face after years of unrelenting duty.

Americans here at home are fantastic when it comes to empty platitudes about supporting the troops. I wish I owned stock in a few of the companies that made magnetic yellow “Support the Troops” ribbons that adorn countless SUV’s and wonder how much Lee Greenwood has made in royalties for the millions of times “God Bless the USA” has been played at football games and political rallies to teary-eyed crowds. My problem is that is generally where the middle class support stops.

With the economy in the tank I have no idea how successful the military recruiters are these days but in 2005 when I retired after 21 years of service they were catching hell. The steady stream of high school age kids that for years had been interested in military service had dried up so bad that long time standards preventing those with criminal records and weak education from joining were abandoned. Even worse a “Stop Loss” was put into effect preventing many soldiers, sailors, Marines, and airmen from leaving the service after their term of enlistment was over, a sort of back door draft. Now with patriotism so high you might expect that a good many able bodied civilians would have rushed to join, not only to come to the defense of their country but to relieve the burden on the men and women wearing the uniform.

This is where we really need to stop kidding ourselves, while there were exceptions in the middle class and even from a few families of the elite, no rush to join ever materialized. Excuses abounded for this lapse and since I live in a blood red state where patriotism is supposedly encoded in the DNA I have heard a bunch. Out of all of them my favorite was always when some mom or dad said it was up to their child to make the decision of whether to join or not.

The disturbing idea many would only speak amongst those they thought like minded was that they are not about to offer up their precious child to be sacrificed on the altar of war. Fighting wars are for someone else’s child to do, the completely unspoken thought being that is what the children of poor and working class families are for with the occasional representative from wealthier families.

Since patriotism has not brought the rush to enlist in the face of the latest boogeyman the most glaringly obvious thing to do to relieve the pressure of endless combat tours and bring a broader scope of American society into contact with what we are doing overseas would be to reinstate the draft. This is where the true but much abused statement about the generals not wanting draftees in combat comes into play. It is a very convenient crutch that gives many moms and dads with some sort of conscious the ability to look themselves in the mirror after a military funeral procession drives by or they see video on the evening news of a mom receiving a folded flag

The truth of the matter is that despite the shows of affection and lip service to national ideals and our history we are nowhere near as patriotic as we claim to be. After Pearl Harbor men lined up for blocks at recruiting offices to go fight for their country with some in tears when it was discovered that for some medical reason they could not join. Out of all of it though, the dirtiest little secret of why the draft will never be brought back has to do the fact that if upper and middle class children were forced to participate in our conflicts a massive peace movement would materialize overnight that would make the Vietnam era peace movement look small. Outraged and terrified parents would demand a quick ending to our overseas adventures while college age armchair warriors would make backup plans to flee to Canada.

However, even discounting the failure of hollow American patriotism it all comes down to the fact that those holding the reins of power in this country, in both government and corporations, know what a return of the draft would do and will never let it happened. Far too much money is tied up in overseas endeavors and that is what Americans ultimately care the most about.


Dave Dubya said...

Our unemployment rate and bleak outlook for jobs is already a defacto draft... for those not lucky enough to come from the upper middle class and economic elite families.

MRMacrum said...

The Patriotic banner so many wave enthusiastically at the moment has more to do with partisan positioning than any sense of real support for our troops in harm's way.

If we actually used our troops to protect our shores and not someone else's, maybe more would sign up. OR maybe the numbers we currently have would be enough. How big an army does a country need if it doesn't engage in overseas military adventures?

Unfortunately we have allowed our leadership use the military as a foreign policy tool and not for defense.

Beach Bum said...

Dave: Absolutely, and to be honest my son has four years before he gets to college and I pray nothing bad happens that will prevent him from going. I have very bad vibes about the state of the economy.

Call me selfish, but my 21 years of service is enough for my family. There are plenty of non-serving chickenhawks with lots of able body children to be offered up as cannon fodder.

Crum: This is where I have to agree with Ron Paul. While I freely admit I am not a real expert on military matters I question the purpose of keeping sizeable numbers of American troop in both Germany and Korea. Yes, I know the new stated reason that troops in Europe provide a quick response to troubles in the Balkans and even the Middle East to a certain extent but it just doesn't fly with me. South Korea is more than able to take care of itself even in the face of that insane little troll across the DMZ.

For me the reason we keep so many troops overseas is a latent imperial ambitions as well as to protect corporate interests. A third reason I am sure that will quickly move into the lead will be a new round of geo-political chess with China as its power grows.

lime said...

hhmm, lots to chew on here. when i consider my family history there are a number of veterans, some who enlisted during war time, others who were drafted (during both ww2 and vietnam eras, no korean or gulf vets in my family). i see a distinct difference in my family between the two as it relates to their ability to effectively cope with life after their respective tours of duty.

i know that's a little bit tangential to your point. it's just the thoughts your post sparked.

Beach Bum said...

Lime: What I maybe should not have edited out was the reason for my rant other than hearing the discussion of "Morning Joe" several days ago.

One of my coworkers who is a Beck Syncopate made what amounted to an unsolicited proclamation the other day saying that he felt "those that did not pay taxes should be forced to fight the wars."

Keeping my mouth shut to avoid undo job endangering hassles my mind was freaking over how moronic that statement seemed to me. Maybe this is just another example of my skewed view of the world but I always thought that the American experiment in some respects was a collective agreement to help each other out. Which in my book means most everyone should share in the societal duties, even when the become inconvenient.

If this has become a cash and carry society with no sense of the "greater good", which I honestly think it has, we are in serious trouble and no messiah or political party will be able to prevent the worst as the population continues to look after number one.

Doc said...

At eighteen, I tried to enlist. I was poor, with no prospects for a job, and no money for college. I had a high school diploma, a bad heart, and one pair of shoes, but I felt that I owed a debt to those who had gone before me and secured the freedoms I enjoyed. Most of the men in my family had done a hitch in the Army and I hoped that the Air Force could find a place for a country boy with a weak ticker. No such luck.

My father often said that he wouldn't trade his time in service for any amount of money, but if given the chance, he wouldn't do it over. He graduated boot camp with five hundred other guys but his orders were lost so he spent a couple of weeks as the base librarian. Of the five hundred in his class that went to Korea, three came home. He was stationed in Germany, and because of the Army's screw up, my three brothers and my sister are here today.

I know in my heart that the life of a soldier is the hardest way to make a living there is. No other job you could name asks you to leave your family and learn how to kill someone in a foreign land. (Beat cop might come a close second, but those guys get to go home at night.) No parent wants to offer up their child to die in a ditch somewhere, but it is a cold and calloused heart that says, "Take their kid. He's poor and will never amount to anything. Mine is rich, so he is worth ten of them."


Pixel Peeper said...

What movie was that again that had Michael Moore showing how easy it was to recruit in economically desperate places like Flint?

Beach Bum said...

DOC: My father often said that he wouldn't trade his time in service for any amount of money, but if given the chance, he wouldn't do it over.

Not to change the subject but I have said the same thing countless times.

Given the stress I saw first hand on military personnel I was sure for several years that a draft would have to reinstated. I believe it was Mary Ellen who frequents Randal's blog who finally set me straight. A draft would finally wake the people up put an end to corporate inspired adventures. Its a sad thing that so many so willingly sacrifice so few with nothing but platitudes as an acknowledgment.

Pixel: I don't remember but with the powers that be calling the current unemployment something we will have to live with for a good while I imagine recruiting will be easy. God bless Amerika.

Liberality said...

Have to agree with MRMacrum. We are not engaged in a war of defense and that is a real problem.


The military, in addition to providing for our defense, is also a massive social program for military contractors and countries we have Troops stationed.

You can cut welfare to the poor. You can't cut the rich's welfare just as you can't draft their kids.

Beach Bum said...

Liberality: I agree as well, but I honestly don't believe it would make much difference to Americans if the country was in actual danger. With a few exceptions we are a spoiled and banal bunch and national unity on something simple like fixing infrastructure is damn near next impossible. God help us if the Chinese ever decide to take us down. Half the rich would be pissed about profits being disturbed and the other half would be selling us out to the enemy. All of them would be sending their offspring to some neutral country to ride out the war.

Truth 101: A big fucking amen on that one.

Ranch Chimp said...

Actually I love this posting Beach Bumb ... It is so blunt and straight to the reality on so many thing's, about the mindset of America! Actually ... there has been quite a bit of water cooler talk up in Washington about a draft .... heh, heh, heh, heh, heh, and of course major corporate nation destroyer's and builder's have been weighing option's ... I'm not sure how folk's like Blackwater would feel about it though ... would they have to reduce the cost's of their service's? Heh, heh, heh, heh, heh ... the amount of bullshit that come's in our nation is like 2nd to none guy ... I have alway's looked at America as a nation so full of shit period(I even have a series called "NoB" ... Nation of Bullshit). :) No one will even peep a word about a draft though ... heh, heh, heh, heh, heh ... it's too close to election's! :) I have a niece who just enlisted US Army after her graduation this last summer ... she actually enlisted not because of patriotism ... but because her single mom couldnt afford a college education and she had no job ... but she should be in Afghanistan soon enough :)

Later Guy ....

Randal Graves said...

mrmacrum, don't forget as a slush fund for cronies.

BB, Scarborough? That murderer? I think the heat is getting to you. ;)

Liberality said...

In our family we have had plenty of service men and women. My brother tried to join the army but got kicked out of boot camp (and he was almost done) because he had a vision defect that wouldn't allow him to shoot straight. He told me what it's called but I'm drawing a blank right now. Also, my husband was in the Navy and I was a Navy wife for years. My dad was in the Korean conflict and he had nightmares up until the day he died from that experience. My brother in law died at the Pentagon on 9/11. When my son was just a child he often talked about joining the military. He loved military history just like his dad, granddad, and uncles do/did. Anyway, I begged my son not to join the military. I cried and did everything I could to dissuade him from joining. You are damn straight I don't want him over there as cannon fodder. No one's children should be used for such purposes.

okjimm said...

//why the draft will never be brought back//

and your following rational is THE ONLY reason it should be BROUGHT back immediately!

//demand a quick ending to our overseas adventures//

...we should demand them NOW draft or no draft. Good write.

Will "take no prisoners" Hart said...

Politics and the hotness of Ms. Bzezinski aside, I completely agree with you about Scarborough. He is one of the very few cable news talking heads who doesn't engage in hyperbole and personal attacks. To those whose penchant is to put him into the same category as Hannity and Limbaugh have obviously never witnessed his program. As for Mr. Scarborough running for office in the future, I don't know, I fear that he may in fact be too reasonable for the Republican Party of today. Unfortunately.

Beach Bum said...

Ranch Chimp: Welcoe and come again. My biggest problem that I may not have clearly stated is my beef with all those gung-ho types who have no problem with going to war but not with any member of their family in the fight.

There are many patriotic people who join to serve the country, hell I was one of them back in 1984. I do believe that if the draft was brought back things like Iraq would have never happened.

Randal: Just trying to be fair and balanced. Anyway he hangs out with the lovely Mika and can't be all bad.

Liberality: Please forgive if you were hurt by my words. Like I mentioned with Ranch Chimp above the thrust of my displeasure is with the gung-ho families that are for Bush's war but will not put their kinfolk on the line.

I served for patriotism and I know many others do as well. But I believe that the general population has long since sacrificed their reponsbilities for a prole-like freedom that will ultimately come back to haunt them. Just don't ask me how because I do not know.

Okjimm: That is the only reason I would bring back the draft. Although, I figure a couple of decades from now China or the US will get stupid and try and take out the other and the resulting war will be the last.

Will: Scarborough has pissed me off at times with statements that made me think he was going for a gig at Fox. But he is honest and I have heard him say on television he pisses off people on the left and right, so he must be doing something right.

Liberality said...

oh, I'm not hurt so no harm, no foul. Just putting my two cents in here.

TomCat said...

Beach, your reasoning is excellent and your points, well taken. I think that an all voulnteer army would serve our needs quite well, if only our troops were not deployed in Republican wars of conquest. Perhaps that would be less likely if we were it institute a limited draft for only the children of the top 2%, Representatives and Senators. If the people benefiting fro war had to put their own kids' lives on the line, perhaps they would think twice. At least they wouldn't send them into combat, as Republicans did, without proper body armor.

Judy T said...

I am so glad I found your blog. I put it on our blog roll (Two Seeds on a Blog) to bring our readers' attention to it. You, my friend, make so much sense!

Pixel Peeper, the movie you referred to, was Michael Moore's first, Roger & Me, which started his career.

The wars we are fighting now are all about money,corporate interests and control of resources.

So many of the young men and women who join the all volunteer army now do so because they are poor and desperate for a job.

Doc Häagen-Dazs said...

Beach says in a comment above:

...South Korea is more than able to take care of itself even in the face of that insane little troll across the DMZ....

Really? DRK has the 4th largest conventional army in the world. Where does South Korea's army rank?

More to the point, where does the army of Afghanistan rank?

Beach Bum said...

Liberality: Okay, I was just worried.

Tomcat: You know many like Beck have whined about the poor not paying taxes. I'll make a deal with that bastard, make everyone pay something in taxes and every son and daughter in the country serve three years in the military.

Judy: Welcome, you and Tom will see me at you blog a lot. It's terrible that many kids join the military just to get money to go to college. I'm a big fan of Senator Jim Webb for his efforts in updating the GI Bill.

Doc: The ROK's are more than capable in kicking North Korea's ass. And we would supply air power from Japan and Korea.